Domestic violence and the UK immigration rules – what’s the position?
In the midst of the Windrush scandal, another important topic, one that’s sadly familiar to London immigration solicitors. Earlier in 2018, a coalition of women’s groups reported that many victims of domestic violence are too afraid to report what is happening to them because of concerns about their Immigration status, and how the UK Immigration rules will affect them. In some cases, women who have been brave enough to take their stories to the police have even faced questioning about their Immigration status, rather than the criminal behaviour they have been subjected to, often by their sponsor. For many top UK Immigration lawyers, this is compounded by the fact that many migrant women are in the UK on the basis that they will have no recourse to public funds. Already vulnerable women are unable to access services that they so desperately need.
Relationship breakdown and Immigration status
When a relationship breaks down and the Immigration status of one of the couple is dependant on that relationship, it can undoubtedly cause problems. The individual has an obligation to advise the Home Office that the relationship has come to an end. Alongside other information the individual must indicate whether they wish to remain in the UK or are intending to leave. For those wishing to stay, they must try and make alternative arrangements to be in the UK lawfully. As experienced divorce and Immigration solicitors, OTS Solicitors are well placed to advise anyone whose immigration status is impacted by divorce.
The impact of domestic violence on Immigration status
In the case of domestic violence, the situation is more complex – and of course, as any lawyer experienced in the domestic violence Immigration rules knows, coloured by the very serious situation that the victim may find her (or him)self in. If the Immigration status of the victim of domestic violence is dependant on her relationship with her sponsor – and who is the perpetrator of the violence, turning to a UK Immigration lawyer is probably the best option. Not only may the individual be able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in her own right, she may be able to benefit from the ‘domestic violence concession’ in respect of accessing public funds.
The domestic violence concession offers some limited protection to an individual who is in the UK on a spouse visa but has not yet been able to obtain Indefinite Leave to Remain when the relationship breaks down due to domestic violence.
Access to public funds – and the domestic violence concession
One of the key issues for those in the UK on a spouse visa is that they must be able to support themselves and have no recourse to public funds. In the case of domestic violence, it may well be that financial support has come from the sponsor, and this is withdrawn once the allegations of domestic violence are made. The victim then has no way of supporting herself in the UK.
The Destitution Domestic Violence concession (‘DDV’) allows someone in this situation to apply to the Home Office of 3 months’ temporary leave (while the separate application for Indefinite Leave to Remain is prepared and submitted) which allows her to access public services in the UK.
Applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain
Provided the individual can evidence the domestic violence in some way, she should be able to apply for – and be granted – Indefinite Leave to Remain in her own right. She must do this within 3 months of the temporary DDV leave being granted.
Evidencing domestic violence can be a distressing process but is a vital element of obtaining Indefinite Leave to Remain. Originally, evidence had to be in the form of either
- an injunction, non-molestation order or other protection order made against the sponsor (other than an ex-parte or interim order);
- a relevant court conviction against the sponsor;
- full details of a relevant police caution issued against the sponsor.
Recognising that these might not always be available for one reason or another, since 2002, ‘evidence’ of domestic violence can also include.
- a GP letter from a GP who has examined the applicant and is satisfied they have injuries consistent with being the victim of domestic violence
- an undertaking given to a court that the perpetrator of the violence will not approach the applicant who is the victim of violence
- police report confirming attendance at the home of the applicant because of domestic violence
- a letter from social services confirming its involvement in connection with domestic violence; or
- a letter of support or report from a women's refuge.
A right to protection regardless of Immigration status
Complex scenarios can arise – for example, the individual’s Immigration status may be irregular as a product of the domestic violence suffered. The sponsor may have contrived to keep the victim’s Immigration status uncertain as a means of exercising control. Regardless of Immigration status, no one in the UK should have to suffer domestic violence at the hands of their partner. Someone who finds themselves in this position should always seek help from the police.
OTS Solicitors are experienced Immigration and family lawyers, recommended in the Legal 500 for Immigration law matters. We can talk to you in confidence about the situation you find yourself in, and advise you on the next steps. Please call 0203 959 9123 in confidence, to arrange an appointment with one of our Immigration and family lawyers.